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Row over container homes for refugees

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Soldiers at the Schwarzenberg barracks. Photo: ORF
15:04 CEST+02:00
A row has broken out in Salzburg province after the interior ministry said it plans to dismantle a tent camp for refugees at an army barracks in Wals-Siezenheim and replace it with container homes.

The Mayor of Wals-Siezenheim, Joachim Maislinger (ÖVP), is opposed to the idea, saying that he did not agree to a “container village” and that he believes if the containers are being used for accommodation then a building permit is required. He added that he had been told the tent camp would only be temporary, but that containers seem like a more permanent solution.

The first 50 refugees arrived at the tent camp at Schwarzenberg barracks on Sunday evening. 250 beds have been set up in the tents but interior ministry spokesman Karlheinz Grundböck said that by Friday the tents will be replaced with containers. Soldiers are setting up the camp and distributing food to the refugees.

Maislinger said that 250 refugees is too big a number for a community of 13,000 and that he had only planned to accommodate 150 for a few weeks, adding that he felt the interior ministry was taking advantage of the community’s willingness to help.

Grundböck said that the situation is urgent as around 1,000 new shelters need to be set up for refugees in the coming weeks.

The container-based housing is the kind widely used on building sites, university campuses and school playing fields and come with fittings, including windows, doors, plumbing and electrical connections.

Containex, Europe’s largest manufacturer of container housing, is conveniently based in Austria and says demand has been especially strong in France, Switzerland and Germany this year - with the influx of refugees into Europe proving problematic for these countries as well.

However, refugee support groups say container housing is not ideal, as what is meant to be a short-term solution can end up becoming permanent with people living in these temporary homes for years.

In Austria the number of asylum requests rose above 28,300 between January and June alone - as many as the whole of 2014. Officials expect the total to reach 80,000 this year.

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